Health

Report finds chemicals in one-third of fast food packaging

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Most of the time, when you order fast food, you know exactly what you’re getting: an inexpensive meal that tastes great but is probably loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium. But it turns out that the packaging your food comes in could also have a negative impact on your health, according to a report published Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters. The report found fluorinated chemicals in one-third of the fast food packaging researchers tested. These chemicals are favored for their grease-repellent properties.

Along with their use in the fast food industry, fluorinated chemicals — sometimes called PFASs — are used “to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and non-stick properties to consumer products such as furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmetics (and) cookware,” according to a news release that accompanied the report. “The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular cancer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid problems and changes in hormone functioning, as well as adverse developmental effects and decreased immune response in children.”

These are long-chain PFASs that have largely been phased out, in favor of shorter-chain compounds that are thought to have shorter half-lives in the human body, but these shortened forms have not yet been thoroughly studied. As these chemicals are used in many everyday products, consumers are exposed to them frequently, and the same health effects may not be true for all of them. Previous studies have shown that PFASs can migrate from food packaging into the food you eat, said Laurel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and one of the authors of the paper.

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